The Quakers Picked for Third Place in Ivy League Preseason Poll
August 14, 2023 –
The University of Pennsylvania turned around a tough season from two years ago earning a tie for second place in the Ivy League. Penn beat the league champion Yale Bulldogs and archrival Princeton Tigers during the campaign. Many of the current group that got a successful season are back and ready to make this an even better season. Penn is picked for third place in the Ivy League preseason poll. But it was said at the League Football Media Day it would not be a surprise to see this Penn team at the top of the league. The players and coaches know how to improve, and that experience can be a factor in making this a better season. And there is trust.
“It’s always a stepping stone,” said Penn Coach Ray Priore. “We detailed our work. We were accountable and more importantly, trust factor. Our kids trusted everybody. When you have that accountability, you have that trust, it continues to build, and hopefully, we will continue to build it. But remember, it starts from step one. It comes down to working on those fundamentals of leadership and accountability. We want to be playing meaningful games in November like we did last year.”
The Quakers will have experience in a very important place, the quarterback position where junior Aidan Sayin will be back behind center. Sayin played in all 10 games throwing for 2,344 yards. He completed 253 of 390 attempts and had 18 touchdowns. He scored twice on the ground. Seven of his passes were intercepted.
“His football IQ is high, very athletic, and a very, very good person in the huddle, the locker room, and a true leader,” said Priore about his quarterback. “I think it all starts at that position. I don’t think you’re a good football team that can be formed unless you have a player that you have to defend at every level. You’re not as good unless you have that key trigger man.”
Sayin will have talented receivers to throw to that includes senior Josh Casilli who had 52 catches and 491 receiving yards last season, second on the team in both categories, and 4 touchdowns. The two built a chemistry with one another that continues to grow.
“Every game ‘ve ever played is with Aidan,” observed Casilli. “It’s all I know and its been developing through the years, this summer especially. I’ve been getting his thoughts on how he wants to run certain things or what he likes to see from me. The sky is the limit. I’m super excited.”
Returning for the season are receivers junior Julien Stokes (25 receptions for 244 yards and 3 scores), Sterling Stokes (17 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns), and Malone Howley (28 for 382 and one score).
The running game will be headed by senior Jonathan Mulatu who ran for 321 net yards, second on the team, and crossed the goal line 3 times.
Seniors Jake Ligos and Jack Purcell both seniors anchor the offensive line.
The Team Defensive Attitude
This side of the football has many returning players who have the simple philosophy of wanting to be the best they can be.
“We are very hungry,” class linebacker Jonathan Melvin said in describing the unit. “We are experienced unit. We want it and go off that every single time we’re on the field. We are upholding our standard from day one, camp to the last game, Princeton is going to establish where we want to be. We’re hungry and ready to get after it.”
Six key defenders will be back. Fifth-year seniors Jaden Key and Kendren Smith are standout defensive backs. Smith had 41 tackles, one sack, and broke up 7 passes along with an interception. He forced and recovered 2 fumbles. Key made 38 tackles with an interception and 4 pass breakups.
At the linebacker position Melvin returns having posted 50 tackles last season, third-best on the team. He sacked the quarterback on 3 occasions. Senior Jack Fairman had the second most tackles with 70, 34 solo and 36 assisted.
Up front are seniors Micah Morris and Joey Slackman. The second place team leader in sacks was Slackman who had 4.5. He had 49 tackles, 9.5 that resulted in a loss of 35 yards. Morris registered 27 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He also had a defensive touchdown.
“It starts with the quarterback on defense having a great secondary,” Priore said. “Part of having that good secondary is having really good pass rushers up front. Minimize the amount of time a quarterback can throw the ball, you become really good.”
“I think our kids came up really big a year ago. It’s great to have those guys back with lots and lots of experience.”
Special Teams Can Be Special
Julien Stokes will be returning kicks. Last season he brought back 10 for a total of 296 yards and one went to the house. Kicker Graham Gotlieb was good on 9 of 12 field goal attempts.
The Red and Blue finished on a high note and trust that they will maintain their standard of play all season long. That final game win over archrival Princeton can be the catapult to better things this year.
“I was talking to the guys about chasing that great feeling,” Priore said. “Do what we did our last game at Princeton which was phenomenal. But I also want them to understand what we felt at Brown where we did not meet the standards. We have high standards.”
Penn will open the season on September 16 when they travel to Hamilton, NY to play Colgate. There is the usual Ancient Eight battles which includes a Friday Night Lights nationally televised game against Brown at Franklin Field on October 27th.
Written By: Glenn Papazian